Nigerian Air Force Upgrades Alpha Jet Aircraft

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has reactivated and commissioned another Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet aircraft after Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM).

The commissioning of the additional Alpha Jet, NAF 455, took place on March 21, at the 407 Air Combat Training Group (407 ACTG), Kainji. The event also featured the inspection of the upgraded avionics equipment on the aircraft as well as a test flight with aerobatics display.

Speaking during the ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the PDM, stated that the reactivation would go a long way in boosting the morale of troops on the frontlines and better equip the NAF in its drive to sustain the offensive initiative against the terrorists and insurgents. According to him, the in-house PDM, apart from being cost-effective when compared to the overseas option, also affords NAF technicians the opportunity to build better technical capacity.

“It is worth mentioning that our NAF technicians were the major manpower for this PDM. The avionics upgrade, which is the first of its kind on the Alpha Jet, has also significantly improved the aircraft navigation and communications systems thus increasing safety, reliability and overall efficiency”, he added.

The CAS noted that the challenge posed by lack of avionics spares, which accounted for over 60 percent of the Nigerian Alpha Jet critical spares, had also been addressed with the upgrade. The upgraded instruments and accessories, he said, were readily available in the market, thus ensuring the availability of maintenance support spares which would translate to improved aircraft availability.

The CAS added that under his watch the NAF, for the first time in its history, had successfully conducted in-country PDM on two C-130H Hercules tactical airlifter (NAFs 917 and 913) in Lagos, while Life Extension Programme (LEP) was also successfully conducted on three Aero L-39ZA jet aircraft in Kano. He further highlighted that a Mil Mi-35P helicopter was also undergoing in-Country reactivation in Portharcourt, which would further boost aircraft availability for enhanced mission accomplishment.

The CAS further noted that the Base was also being positioned to efficiently support the new A-29 Super Tucano aircraft when it arrives.

After the unveiling of NAF 455 and inspection of the upgraded avionics in the cockpit, a Functional Check Flight (FCF) was conducted to further certify the aircraft fit for combat operations. The FCF, which also featured an aerial display, was executed by the Commander 407 ACTG, Squadron Leader Kingsley Igwegbe, and Flying Officer Kafayat Sanni, the NAF’s first female fighter pilot, whose arrival from the flight was heralded by a traditional water salute.

The Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet is a light attack jet and advanced jet trainer co-manufactured by Dassault Aviation of France and Dornier Flugzeugwerke of Germany. It was developed specifically to perform trainer and light attack missions, as well as to perform these duties more ideally than the first generation of jet trainers that preceded it.

Both the French Air Force and German Air Force procured the Alpha Jet in large numbers, the former principally as a trainer aircraft and the latter choosing to use it as a light attack platform. The Alpha Jet has been adopted by a number of air forces across the world and has also seen active combat use by some of these operators.

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